Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Champ Mendelssohn Ready to Make Mark in Kentucky Derby
No European horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby. Saturday’s 144th running of the Kentucky Derby may end that run when Mendelssohn goes to the gate as one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby.
Mendelssohn won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last November in his only start in the U.S., but his progression and continued growth and maturity makes him one of the finest 3-year-olds with superstar status on the horizon. He’s raced six times on the turf, but is bred for the dirt by Scat Daddy and 2016 Broodmare of the Year Leslie’s Lady. Mendelssohn showed his talent and class when he exploded to an 18-length victory in the UAE Derby in Dubai, his first start on dirt. He earned a 106 Beyer Speed figure in that romp at Meydan, and that final derby prep performance has earned him the second-favorite choice on the morning line for the Kentucky Derby.
Post positions and odds from were released at Tuesday’s Twinspires.com Kentucky Derby draw, and Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia recognized the betting interest on Mendelssohn before making him a 5-1 choice.
“Mike sees my odds all year long,” said Johnny Avello, Wynn Las Vegas sports book director. “He knows what my prices are, but he doesn’t have the exposure that I have. Mendelssohn has been getting bet, and there’s a lot of savvy that the so-called professionals have.”
Mendelssohn was the highest-priced American yearling in 2016, a $3 million purchase at the Keeneland September sale. Yearlings do not sell for that high of a price unless they are essentially flawless physically and mentally and boast a promising pedigree.
Key Speed Figures and Stats for Mendelssohn
- Final 3/8 mile time in the UAE Derby :37.59 seconds
- Record time in UAE Derby with 106 Beyer Speed Figure and 18-length victory
- Keeneland sales topper $3 million purchase in 2016
- 4 Wins and a 2nd place finish in 7 Career Starts with nearly $2 million in Earnings
Trainer Aidan O’Brien is considered one of the best in the business, but he’s 0-for-5 in the Kentucky Derby with a best finish of 5th place. He brings his best horse ever to the Derby this year, and Mendelssohn is a very experienced and class horse who has already
raced successfully in America and Dubai. O’Brien notes that Mendelssohn is naturally quick with a lot of early tactical speed. He should be able to use it to his advantage to gain early position in the Kentucky Derby, and he’ll break from post 14 and likely settle into a stalking position just off the pace on dirt as he has done in his turf races.
Menelssohn is the only Derby runner that has already raced further than the other final Derby preps of 1 1/8 miles. The UAE Derby was 1 3/16 miles and he carried 126 pounds. Other Derby runners carried 122 pounds or less in their final preps. Now each 3-year-old will try to tackle the Classic Derby distance of 1 ¼ miles (10 furlongs) for the first time carrying high weight of 126 pounds.
Jockey Ryan Moore is a world-class rider, and calls trainer Aidan O’Brien a ‘genius’. Moore felt there was more physical improvement and strengthening ahead following Mendelssohn’s emphatic UAE Derby victory. His ceiling appears very high, as Mendelssohn is world-class horse with high cruising speed, dirt pedigree and lots of class and stamina. He’s also a very expensive investment who has returned nearly $2 million in prize earnings to his $3 million purchase price as a sales topper at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. Mendelssohn is one to watch in the Kentucky Derby and the rest of the year before you see him again at the 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.
Mendelssohn was 28-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool prior to capturing the UAE Derby. He dropped to 12-1 at many sports books and online betting shops following that dominating win, and has continued to drop with his 5-1 morning line odds set Tuesday. Don’t be surprised if Mendelssohn goes to post closer to 4-1 when the gates open for the Kentucky Derby. Over 2 minutes later, magnificent Mendelssohn may well be wearing the roses in the winners circle. And we’ll be cashing in the money with our Mendelssohn tickets.